The MPA Guide is a groundbreaking science-driven, policy-relevant framework to categorize marine protected areas and link their outcomes for nature and people. The MPA Guide framework is fully integrated into the Marine Protection Atlas platform, allowing users to elucidate how much of the ocean is currently fully to highly protected, highlight where MPAs are not yet implemented on the water, and much more.
MPAtlas now includes the MPA Guide framework. Track the publication of MPA Guide-based assessments of marine protected areas here.
The Marine Protection Atlas (MPAtlas) is building a comprehensive global database of marine protection to identify, monitor, and advocate for fully and highly protected areas. It supports international progress toward effective marine conservation by integrating the latest available data on marine protected areas with science-based assessments that determine their stage of establishment and level of protection.
MPAtlas combines self-reported data submitted by countries to the official World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) with standardized, science-based assessments that categorize MPA zones in terms of expected outcomes and conservation benefits.
We enrich the WDPA database by adding spatial data and information on management zones within MPAs, which is critical to understanding the impacts of regulations and uses across the site.
Learn more about our methods.
We work with partners to evaluate the stage of establishment and protection level of marine protected areas using science-based, standardized assessments.
Read more about our MPA assessments.
We create reports and visualizations of global MPA coverage from these data to inform global progress toward marine conservation and highlight the importance of fully and highly protected areas.
View our reports.
is in implemented and fully / highly protected areas.
Countries have the jurisdiction to create marine protected areas to the limits of their declared Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). These areas account for 39% of the global ocean area and include many hotspots of human activity and industry.
have protected at least 10% of their marine areas in implemented and fully / highly protected areas.
Many nations have agreed to international commitments to create marine protected areas or established their own national targets for marine protected areas, ranging in coverage from 10% to 30% of their national marine areas.
Only 2 have protected more than 30% in fully / highly protected areas.
is in 36 very large (≥ 100,000 km2) implemented protected marine protected areas.
is in 11,372 small and very small marine implemented protected areas (<100 km2).
The MPA Guide* provides a scientific framework for categorizing MPAs using consistent criteria based on establishment stage and protection levels that reflect the conservation benefits they provide. It is intended to motivate more meaningful protection and can be used by governments and MPA planners to better understand how the regulations of their MPAs relate to conservation outcomes. Learn more.
* Grorud-Colvert et al. 2021. The MPA Guide: A Framework to Achieve Global Goals for the Ocean. Science (in review).
The Regulation-Based Classification System (RBCS)* classifies MPAs based on their regulations using an increasing gradient of impacts of uses (1-8). Following a decision tree, scores for each use are weighted by their potential impact on biodiversity. In MPAs with multiple zones, each zone within an MPA is scored and a weighted average by zone area determines the MPA score. This system is globally applicable, assesses how well MPAs can perform, and unambiguously discriminates the impacts of uses. Learn more.
* Horta e Costa, B., J. Claudet, G. Franco, K. Erzini, A. Caro, and E. J. Gonçalves. 2016. A regulation-based classification system for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Marine Policy 72:192–198.
marine protected areas
have received Blue Park Awards.
These areas cover roughly 6.8% of the total marine protected area in the world.
Learn more about Blue Parks.
Blue Parks* aim to unite a global ocean refuge system of effective MPAs that covers 30% of the ocean to safeguard marine biodiversity. The Blue Park Criteria are science-based standards for conservation effectiveness, which provide blueprints for effective MPAs and a framework for evaluating the biodiversity benefits of MPAs. By awarding MPAs that meet the Blue Park Criteria, the Blue Parks initiative incentivizes and accelerates effective marine protection.
* Marine Conservation Institute. 2021. Blue Park Criteria: 2021. Seattle, WA, 34pp.